The above Aidome in the British Virgin Islands
withstood 2017 Hurricane Irma’s 200 mph winds with no damage.
WHY BUILD A GEODESIC DOME FOR YOUR NEW HOME OR BUSINESS?
Q: Why did the founder of American Ingenuity (Ai) in 1975 decide on the dome shape for his commercial dome to be built in Melbourne Florida and why did he choose to use fiber concrete instead of wood?
A: The dome, or partial sphere, is a geometric form that encloses the greatest amount of volume with the least amount of surface area. Historically, massive domes constructed of stones, brick or concrete were common in ancient Greece and Rome. In modern times, Buckminster Fuller was the first to formulate geodesic principles for constructing a spherical surface by triangular subdivision. However nearly all of Fuller’s domes were built from wood framing with shingled roofs.
Ai’s founder, Michael Busick, did not want to build his Florida commercial dome out of wood and shingles because termites eat wood, hurricane force winds rip off shingles and a wood dome has an increased shingled roof area causing expensive reroofing costs every 11 or 12 years. Instead Mr. Busick hired a University of Miami architectural professor, engineering students and director of the Florida Solar Energy Center to come up with building materials specifically to build the geodesic dome without wood or a shingled roof. The materials were concrete, mesh and expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation. Back in 1976 the first Ai dome was built by propping up precut EPS panels, hand tying road mesh on the exterior of the EPS and guniting concrete on to the exterior. Mr. Busick soon learned that guniting concrete over the entire exterior surface was a waste of concrete and labor. This is why he invented Ai’s prefab panel. Building an Ai dome from prefab concrete panels makes construction easier than stick built construction or pumping concrete on to an airform and results in the dome triangle and riser panels having a 225 mph wind and F4 tornado warranty and being super-energy efficient.
The panel concrete is a special formulation containing synthetic fibers and two liquid admixtures. The following is why Ai ships these same ingredients with the Building Kit so that the concrete mixed on site which is hand troweled in the seams between the panels and on the entryway and dormer panels has the same properties as the prefinished concrete Ai applies at its Florida factory on the prefabricated panels. Fibers in concrete work to reduce the formation of shrinkage cracks in concrete’s plastic state while helping to improve shatter resistance and reduce water migration. The result: tougher concrete. These ingredients improve the concrete’s characteristics, create super toughness, extend durability, make concrete impervious to water, give higher tensile and compressive strength, provide elasticity for expansion, and improve freeze protection. The concrete in your dome out performs other exteriors because of its specially developed formula. Because of its exceptional composition, it actually gains strength over the years. The exterior concrete adheres directly to the galvanized steel mesh and E.P.S insulation without the need of a bonding agent. The panel concrete is 3/4″ thick. The seam areas between the panels average two inch thick fiber concrete.
Why build a concrete geodesic Aidome from a building kit consisting of prefabricated concrete component panels versus a box shaped conventional house? The dome, or partial sphere, is a geometric form that encloses the greatest amount of volume with the least amount of surface area. During the past decade the home buying public has experienced increased Acts of Nature (tornadoes, hurricanes, fires), a substantial increase in the cost of construction, the cost of energy and the cost of borrowing. As a result, there has been increased interest in the use of concrete kit home technology to help address these concerns. Many home buyers have discovered that the Aidome design offers a viable solution; as a result Ai has shipped dome kits into 47 USA states and 15 foreign areas.
As a building concept, geodesic dome construction translates into a highly comfortable and livable building that has a maximum of floor area enclosed by a minimum of materials. These features combine superior strength, superior energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness in a single structure. In short, the building concept of a dome expands the range of simple and economic building options. The process of stacking the panels, overlapping/locking the galvanized steel mesh of adjacent panels and filling the panel seams with special fiber concrete, produces 1) the structural components of the home; 2) the finished concrete exterior surface; 3) installs all the R28 insulation; and 4) installs all the special shell ½” Georgia Pacific DensArmor Drywall that is moisture resistant and mold resistant (similar to green board). Ai’s component panel building system is one of the most simplified ways to build a commercial or residential building on the market today.
Why build a geodesic dome – Super-strength, super-energy efficiency, low exterior maintenance and fire resistant concrete exterior. The geodesic geometry intersects to form triangular elements, which have local, triangular rigidity, and so distribute the structural stress throughout the geodesic sphere. The triangle shape is the strongest shape known to man – it will not collapse whereas all other shapes can. Manufactured domes are constructed using a triangular network to form a spherical shape. This method provides for a free span, self-supporting structure requiring no internal supports such as roof load bearing partition walls. This allows for maximum flexibility of floor plan design and utilization of interior space. One of the most exciting architectural environments ever designed, a dome brings its best attributes to commercial or residential needs. It delivers a rewarding living experience filled with warmth, light and open space to those who choose to build a dome.
As an architectural form, the dome is one of the strongest structural forms devised and built by man. Domes that were built centuries ago enclose many of the great cathedrals of Europe. Domes are structurally superior to rectilinear enclosures. The partial sphere is an aerodynamic shape that is very stable in high winds and can withstand heavy snow loads. For these reasons, Ai’s concrete domes greatly exceed the structural requirements of the major building codes in the United States and internationally. One of Aidomes in the British Virgin Islands withstood Hurricane Irma’s 200 winds with no damage. An Aidome in South Carolina withstood the impact of a 30” in diameter hickory tree with no damage because the continuous galvanized steel mesh in the panels transferred the impact throughout the dome versus when a tree impacts a box shaped house the impact is localized in one area resulting in the tree slicing through the roof. Ai gives a 225-mph wind and EF4 Tornado warranty on the dome exterior prefab triangle and riser panels. This article explains more about dome strength.
Ai has stock plans for each of its ten different size kits which when assembled and finished with local materials, result in a tiny home of 172 sq.ft. to 3,000 sq.ft in one dome. Up to four domes can be linked to one dome to produce larger homes. If a Buyer does not find a stock plan to fit their lifestyle our plans designers can modify or customize a plan from descriptions and sketches for a reasonable fee. Building kits with Building plans cost from $20,000 to $67,000. This pricing does not include the engineer seal on the plans (if required to obtain a building permit) or shipping or custom foundation plans.
Ai has made improvements in its entryway panels to result in the 30 ‘ – 48’ entryways having scratch coat of concrete on the underside and preformed lip edge for front of a beam that is poured on site. Engineers with our Computer Aided Drafting Department have designed revisions in the building plans to comply with code as code has changed over the years. The Assembly Manual is new and improved and is shipped with each dome kit purchase.
The Ai dome is more energy efficient than a conventional house: Why did an Aidome beat a passive solar house designed by Florida Power & Light (Florida’s nuclear-powered utility company) to win the Grand Aurora Award for Most Energy Efficient Residence in the southeastern United States?
- Because the dome’s 7” thick insulation is comparable to 10” of fiberglass batting (A conventional house would need minimum 2×12 walls filled with 10” of fiberglass batting and still not meet the energy efficiency of the Ai dome because the 2×12 would interrupt the insulation)
- the reduced exterior surface area of the dome is 30% less than a conventional house so there are less exterior walls for the air conditioning and heating to try to pass through.
- and because the exterior triangle and riser panels of an Ai dome contain no wood to interrupt the insulation.
The thick insulation allows cooling and heating bills to be reduced 50% to 60% over conventional houses utility costs. (this link lists electric bills for Ai’s offices 45’ linked to 34’ dome – 3700 sq.ft. which can be cooled for less than $85 a month in the hot Florida Summer Months.) The low utility bills can be achieved because the 7” EPS is not interrupted by wood and the dome has 30% less exterior surface area than a conventional house. To view utility bills for 1,075 sq. ft. Aidome home’s electric bills, please view 34’ Dome Home Energy Recap. For northern climates, the insulation can be upgraded from 7” to 9” or R36. (Because of the reduced surface area and all the shell panels having either R28 or R36 insulation, the Aidome will pass an Energy Report with double pane Low E glass. FYI, it is even easier to heat an Aidome than to cool. To cool a building – heat generated from sunlight, refrigerator motor, dish washers, clothes dryers, computers, etc. has to be overcome; when heating the heat generated from these items is used.
Other advantages of the Aidome & its panel materials are:
Fire Resistant Exterior Concrete: Why did two California home buyers, recently purchase Aidome building kits and pay shipping cost from Florida to California? Their wood houses burned down in fires. Ai’s panelized system does not contain wood framing (ribs) to interrupt the R28 insulation. The prefab panels contain no wood to burn or rot or for termites to eat. All prefab materials are noncombustible with the exterior of the panel being fire resistant concrete reinforced with galvanized steel mesh.
Under the entryways and dormers, pressure treated wood is used to frame in standard windows and doors with lathe and exterior stucco covering the framed area. Resulting in the dome and any exterior framed walls being covered with concrete. The standard, high profile and garage entryway panels for the 30′-48′ kit sizes have been improved and now have a scratch coat of concrete on the underside and a preformed lip edge which folds up to make the front of a beam which is poured on site.
FYI during kit assembly a temporary wooden rib system is assembled to support the panels. The prefab panels compress against each other and are locked together with the steel reinforced concrete so after the kit is assembled, the dome is self-supporting and the temporary wood rib system is removed. In a conventional house supports are needed to support the roof trusses and the roof; but not in the Aidome! The dome’s exterior walls are self-supporting.
Environmentally Responsible: Less than half the construction lumber & less than half the energy to operate than average houses. Insulating foam is ozone protecting, nontoxic, expanded polystyrene (EPS). The EPS contains NO Chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs), no HBCD (hexabromocyclododecane), no TCPP (1-chloro-2-propyl) phosphate and is formaldehyde free.
Special Water Resistant & Mold Resistant Georgia Pacific DensArmor Plus gypsum drywall is installed on each prefab triangle & riser panel. By the time the component panels are assembled it could rain. If Ai used conventional drywall, the paper matting when wet is a food source for mold growth and the gypsum crumbles. The DensArmor gypsum drywall is moisture resistant and mold resistant. DensArmor Plus High-Performance Interior Panels are noncombustible (as defined and tested in accordance with ASTM E136 or CAN/ULC S114) interior panels that consist of a moisture-resistant gypsum core with coated fiberglass mats. The fiberglass mats provide superior protection from incidental moisture. The treated core and the coated facings made with fiberglass offer greater moisture resistance and improved dimensional stability than regular gypsum board. The product resists warping, rippling and buckling. The DensArmor has zero flame spread and zero smoke development and complies with the 15 minute thermal barrier test as described in 2010 Florida State IRC Section R316.4. Georgia Pacific’s Dens-Deck roof board is a patented nonstructural glass mat-faced, noncombustible, water-resistant, gypsum core panel. Georgia Pacific does not add any flame retardant to its gypsum products. The DensArmor contains no HBCD and no TCPP. DensArmor Plus Panels are highly resistant to the growth of mold, and have scored a 10, the highest level of performance for mold resistance under ASTM D3273 test method. DensArmor Plus Interior Panels are the first drywall panels to be GREENGUARD indoor Air Quality Certified and GREENGUARD Children & Schools Certified for low emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by a leading third-party organization, GREENGUARD Environmental Institute. In addition, DensArmor Plus interior Panels are the first drywall panels listed as GREENGUARD microbial resistant. This listing means Dens-Armor Plus Panels, which feature fiberglass mats instead of paper facings used on the surface of traditional gypsum board products, resist mold growth. The microbial resistant test is based on ASTM D6329, a testing standard set by ASTM International, which develops testing guidelines and procedures for building materials, products, systems, and services.
To install electrical wiring in the prefab panels, take a router or circular saw and cut a groove. Either install conduit with wiring or install wiring in the groove. Use expanding foam to fill the groove. Cut the foam back flush and finish with fiberglass tape and joint compound. To blend the taped areas to the smooth DensArmor drywall texture, skip trowel or knock down joint compound over the DensArmor. Interior framed walls are finished like conventional housing.
Flexibility on floor plan layout design: Since there are no load bearing walls or rectangular compartments, soaring spaces fill a dome. The dome may be customized to suit the home buyer’s tastes and lifestyle from casual to formal. Ai has stock plan layouts for each of its ten size kits. If a stock plan does not fit the lifestyle, then we can modify or customize layouts from descriptions and sketches at a reasonable fee. Ai Designs professional sets of blueprints, which contain from 13-20 sheets. The Nomenclature Blueprint in the Building Plans shows the dome geometry with all the panels marked with letters and numbers which match the numbering on the prefab panels. The number of sheets depends on the size of dome, foundation type and the type of entryways and dormers in the kit. The blueprints contain dimensions to install the foundation and instructions for panel, dormer and entryway installation, etc. Plans can be converted to metric for a small fee. Under the entryway panels multiple windows or French doors can be installed. For example a 40’ dome with finished with local materials is a three bedroom/two bath size home. Its entryways can have double French Doors and window on each side. During plans design, we email elevation views of each type entryway, standard, high profile or garage, showing the rough opening size and recommended door and window sizes. Each elevation view has a to-scale ruler which allows for dimension measurement. Ai can design flue pipes, solar tubes, skylights, conduit to hold wiring for solar panels, etc. in the dome shell. On site, a hole can be cut in the prefab panel – just do not cut within eight inches of the center of a seam.
The building plans have been improved to show symbols for the different length foundation rebar and revisions in how the framed wall under the entryway and dormer panels is installed.
Ai does not burden the price of the building kit with the price of the building plans, engineer seal, energy report. If we did we would need to increase the price of the building kit 30%. Instead Ai’s philosophy is that each buyer pays for the engineer seal and Rescheck Energy Report if those items are required by your building department to obtain a building permit. Ai utilizes independent P.E. Engineers to seal the building plans for all states in USA. The seal fee for one dome on a slab is $600. The seal fee for one dome on a basement is $900. Ai can complete a ResCheck Energy Report for $190 for one dome on a slab, $270 for one dome on a basement; after Buyer provides specific window and door specs..
Flexibility on types of foundations which can be designed: The Aidome can be built on any type soil or terrain and be elevated to withstand flooding and water surge. Ai’s standard foundation is a monolithic slab; however Ai can design custom foundations from basements, stem wall, elevated platform on concrete columns or pilings, etc. To design custom foundations, the buyer of the building plans pays for Ai to hire a local engineer to review their soil report, what type custom foundation is to be designed, calculate load of the dome and interior floors, complete design details which Ai incorporates with their custom foundation blueprints. Elevated Aidomes in the Florida Keys with stood Hurricane Irma winds and water surge with no damage.
Once Ai knows what type foundation is to be designed, we will ask the engineer for his fee to assist in the design of the custom foundation and his fee to seal the custom foundation plans. Ai completes a Plans Quote listing the engineer fees and Ai’s fee to design the custom foundation plans along with the dome building plans. Once the buyer agrees with the Plans Quote and pays in full for the plans, engineer fees, etc. Ai schedules the plans for design and emails proofs per the Plans Quote.
Low Exterior Maintenance: The Aidome exterior is a shell of continuous concrete with nothing to rot, burn, rust, shrink, warp, replace or be eaten by termites. There is no roof to blow off in high winds or to replace every 11-12 years. The exterior concrete is painted every 4-5-6 years with breathable elastomeric paint.
Building Permits on Concrete Dome: Supply the property tax ID number and building department name and at no cost, i will call the building department and email a sample set of plans to find out what is required to issue a building permit. If required an engineer seal can be purchased through Ai for the building plans. The seal fee for one dome on a slab is $600. In Florida the highest required wind speed a building is to meet is 180 mph; as a result, the Florida licensed engineer has performed structural calculations on Ai’s largest size dome at 180 mph winds, exposure D which can also be emailed to the building official along with an Equivalency Report or an Engineering Statement which states: “The panel composition of the geodesic dome buildings are certified by me as being designed in accordance with and conform to the intent of 2015 International Building Code, 2014 Florida Building Code 5th Edition, 2016 California Building Code, Residential construction per section R104.11 that allows for alternative materials and methods of construction. The American Ingenuity dome meets the intent of the minimum steel provisions of ACI 318-11 section 10.5 and provides a comparable or higher level of quality, strength, effectiveness, fire resistance, durability and safety. The inherent strength of the geodesic dome configuration creates a minimalistic combination of materials that is less than the more common building materials and configurations considered by the building codes. This concrete style of dome has been successfully installed in Florida, California and many states throughout the United States. Georgia Pacific’s DensArmor Plus High Performance Interior ½” Gypsum drywall/wallboard is used as the interior face of the panels which meets the thermal barrier requirements of R316.4 as shown by third party testing.”
American Ingenuity (Ai) has been in business for over 40 years and has shipped dome building kits to 47 U.S. states and 15 foreign countries (Caribbean, Thailand, Australia, etc.) from its Rockledge Florida factory. Ai designs geodesic dome building plans for ten size kits with an AutoCAD program for residential homes or businesses. After the kit is assembled and finished with local materials (doors, windows, bathroom fixtures, kitchen cabinets, etc.) results in homes of 172 sq.ft. to almost 3,000 sq.ft. Up to four domes can be linked together to make larger complexes. The exterior shell building kits with building plans range in price from $20,000 to $67,000. This pricing does not include shipping or engineer seal on the building plans or pricing for custom foundation plans..
The prefabricated panels for the dome kit includes exterior 3/4″ concrete reinforced with galvanized steel mesh/fibers, center core of nontoxic, rigid, 7″ Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) R-28 insulation (not Styrofoam) with half-inch Georgia Pacific DensArmor Plus drywall adhered to the underside of the EPS with drywall adhesive. Onsite, the kit is assembled by lifting the panels into place with some type of hoisting mechanism, overlapping and locking the galvanized steel mesh in the seam areas. The seams, entryways and dormers are then concreted onsite with fiber concrete (seam concrete averages 2″ thick). The concrete/steel/eps/ and drywall contain no food source for mold growth and are noncombustible. Since our panels come pre-concreted, only the seam areas between the panels, along with and the entryways and dormers are concreted on site; resulting in reduced on site labor costs versus building a conventional house with separate materials to build the vertical walls and install roof trusses, plywood, tarpaper, shingles, insulation and drywall.
Ai designs the building plans and manufactures the dome building kit. Ai is not a construction company. A new and improved Assembly Manual is shipped with each kit. Ai’s clients hire a contractor to build their dome home, with the remaining clients being self-build or an Owner Builder. If not owner building the dome, research and find a green contractor and pay him cost plus. The contractor can hire the Independent Assembly Consultant to supervise the concrete workers & laborers getting the dome shell assembled up to the first layer of concrete in the seams and on the entryways and dormers. By doing this, the home owner does not need to be concerned about hiring a contractor to assemble the dome shell that has never completed a kit assembly and the contractor does not have to be worried about learning to assemble the shell….the Consultant takes care of that concern. Once the shell is assembled (with the first layer of concrete in the seams and on the entryways and dormers), the Consultant leaves and home owner or the contractor hires a finish stucco crew to apply the second layer of concrete to the seams/entryways/dormers. The home owner or their contractor hires the subs (plumbers, electricians, framers, cabinet men, painters, etc.) to prime and paint the exterior, finish the interior and install the locally purchased doors and windows, etc. Please review the Kit Assembly for assembly steps.
To support the panels during kit assembly, a temporary wooden rib system is installed. The buyer can purchase precut, drilled, painted 2×4’s from Ai. The 2×4’s are bolted to steel hubs to make a wooden geodesic skeleton. Once all the seams are concreted and the entryways and dormers are concreted, the dome is self-supporting and the wooden rib system is removed with the steel hubs being returned to Ai for a refund on the hub deposit. Most of the wood can be recycled as interior framing.
The cost to build one of Ai dome kits runs about the same to build per square foot as a traditional home (not built within a housing development) but has insulation comparable to 10” of fiberglass and has super-strength and all the advantages described above. A traditional home would require 2×10 frame construction with 10” of fiberglass batting to come close to our dome….but it would have wood interrupting the insulation.
Ai’s manufacturing costs here in Florida are well below the national average, which offsets any long-distance shipping expenses. We can actually manufacture a kit here in Florida and ship it to the western states and northern states or internationally cheaper than we could manufacture there. Having our manufacturing plant located in Florida is advantageous for shipping since more is shipped in than out of the state, leaving many trucks headed out empty. Ai utilizes independent trucking agencies. We contract to have a truck carry the building kit outside Florida for approximately $2.70 to $2.90 per mile per semi-truck from our plant in Rockledge, Florida. These trucking costs are less than we could do with our own trucks because if we used our own trucks, they would deliver the kit and return to Ai’s factory empty. One each 27’ thru 48’ kits with standard 4’ riser and standard R28 insulation fit on one semi-truck. Multiple smaller size kits can fit on one truck. Internationally the kits are shipped in containers. One 34’ kit (when finished with local materials) results in two bedroom/two bath size home fits in one 40’ high cube container.